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Addressing Intersectionality: A Virtual Dialogue with Trainers for Gender Equality

23 October 2017

A 3-week online dialogue addresses Intersectionality and its relevance in Gender Equality

The UN Women Training Centre’s Community of Practice (CoP) latest Virtual Dialogue with key experts discussed the “what”, “why” and “how” of addressing intersectionality in training for gender equality.

For three weeks, running until 22 October, the initiative included a live webinar on October 11th, featuring three recognized experts: Sam Rankin, Intersectional Equalities Coordinator at the Equality Network (Scotland, United Kingdom), Kirthi Jayakumar, Director of the Red Elephant Foundation (India) and Athena-Maria Enderstein, Research Fellow at the Associazione Orlando (Italy).

"Intersectionality refers both to the concept of how different aspects of our identities can intersect with each other and to the approaches to equalities work that take these intersections into account," says Sam Rankin of the Equality Network (UK).

"Intersectionality refers to the overlapping of multiple social identities, types of discrimination and social structures that reinforce exclusion, which then creates unique experiences of oppression," explains Kirthi Jayakumar, Director of the Red Elephant Foundation (India).

Jayakumar comments that “the greatest challenge to intersectionality in present times is the lack of understanding. One-size-fits-all approaches and broad sweeps that categorize identities only according to one attribute are dangerous, because oppression is not singular or uni-dimensional."

One of the objectives of the webinar and the 3-week Virtual Dialogue was to underline the relevance of intersectionality for training for gender equality. "The transformative nature of training for gender equality is a function of intersectional practice because this sheds light on relations of power and the dynamics that sustain and perpetuate inequalities," noted Athena-Maria Enderstein during the Webinar.

"Without looking at intersectionality we can easily overlook the specific and sometimes unique experiences, needs and barriers to services that intersectional people can face. When we don’t take these into account, services can find that they are not set up to deal with these complex issues and therefore they spend a disproportionately high amount of their capacity on addressing these issues. For example, dealing with an urgent request for assistance from a trans-asylum seeker on a Friday afternoon. Therefore, comprehensively addressing intersectionality makes services more efficient for all," Rankin explains.

"Being able to share ideas and knowledge without having to access funds or find the staff time to travel is a major benefit. Being able to work in partnership is key to progressing with our work, especially in relation to intersectionality," says Sam Rankin.

Virtual Dialogues are online discussions aimed at promoting debate and the exchange of ideas and best practices.

"The CoP Virtual Dialogues are the perfect example of intersectionality in training-related initiatives. It offers people a great opportunity to listen to people from all over the world, and therefore have a comprehensive overview of gender themes world over," underlines Kirthi Jayakumar.

Watch the Webinar recording here, or visit the Virtual Dialogue page on the CoP platform.

Note: This news story was updated on 31 October 2017.